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Shogun raises $35M to help brands take on Amazon with faster and better sites of their own - TechCrunch

Shogun raises $35M to help brands take on Amazon with faster and better sites of their own - TechCrunch

Shogun raises $35M to help brands take on Amazon with faster and better sites of their own - TechCrunch

Posted: 07 Oct 2020 04:27 AM PDT

E-commerce has boomed this year, with more businesses and shoppers than ever before turning to websites and apps as a safer, socially distanced alternative during the current global health pandemic. Today, a startup that has built a platform to help individual companies and brands design better websites is announcing a round of growth funding to help them step up to that challenge with faster and better designed interfaces.

Shogun, which lets companies build sites that sit on top of e-commerce back-ends like Shopify, Big Commerce or Magento to let them sell goods and services, is today announcing that it has raised $35 million in funding after seeing its business grow 182% over the last year, with 15,000 companies — including Leesa, MVMT, Timbuk2, Chubbies and K Swiss, as well as household Fortune 500 brands that it declines to name — now using Shogun's tools, up 5,000 in the last eight months.

Finbarr Taylor, the CEO who co-founded the company with Nick Raushenbush, said that the startup plans to use the funding to continue enhancing its two main products — Page Builder, a drag-and-drop page builder; and Frontend, an end-to-end "headless commerce" solution with faster page-load times and tools for enterprises to easily update pages — and to help improve its market strategy.

Image Credits: Shogun

To date, much of the company's growth has been organic, with a marketing team of two, and also only two sales people. "So it will be about scaling up those teams as well as our engineer and design and product teams, to deliver on the promises we made to our customers," Taylor said.

The Series B is being led by Accel, with participation from Initialized Capital, VMG Partners and Y Combinator. The round also has a number of high-profile individuals in it, which speaks to Shogun's credibility in the worlds of e-commerce and web design. The list includes Bryant Chou (CTO at Webflow), Mark Lavelle and Mark Lenhard (former CEO and SVP of Strategy at Magento, respectively), Alex O'Byrne (CEO of We Make Websites, a leading Shopify agency), Brian Grady (CEO of Gorilla Group, a leading Magento agency) and Romain Lapeyre (CEO of Gorgias).

Growth is one marker of how hot the market is for what Shogun is doing. In addition to Shogun's own expanding list of users, it's estimated by the company (citing figures from Adobe) that there has been some $94 billion in extra sales online (beyond original projections, that is) since March globally.

Another marker is the funding itself. This the second round that the startup has raised in the short span of eight months: Shogun closed a $10 million Series A in February of this year led by Initialized (with participation also from YC and VMG).

And a third marker is the valuation. Taylor said that the company is valued in the "solid nine figures" but declined to say where in the region of hundreds of millions of dollars that might be. For some context, the company was valued at $50 million in February, according to data from PitchBook.

Shogun's news comes at a key moment in the world of e-commerce, not just in terms of the wider macroeconomic trends, but in terms of who is making the wheels move.

Amazon and other marketplaces have come to dominate how a lot of people are shopping online: after all, they offer one-stop shops for whatever you might want or need, free shipping and a familiar interface. Similarly, social media platforms have made a play as a new kind of "store" of sorts, a place where brands already are interacting with would-be customers, and are now being given the tools to sell to them there as well.

But that doesn't tell the whole story: Brands and companies want to have their own space to present things how they want them to look, to better control the customer experience and to make sure that they are not beholden to a third party (both physically and financially) for their online survival.

Yes, some consumers might only care about where they can get what they want for the cheapest price, but others know exactly what they want, or feel loyal to a specific company, and want to shop there without the rest of the noise, and there will always be a business opportunity in building stores for them, too.

And the predictability of the interface of a marketplace like Amazon, or a "shoppable" photo on Instagram, belies how frustratingly oblique it can also be at times. I don't want to see 15 different Danish whisks at slightly different prices; I just want one that will arrive in one piece and not break after a month of use, leading me down a rabbit hole trying to find someone to provide a refund. Similarly, I may want to buy from a brand, but perhaps not the particular item that they're serving me in a Story or a Pin.

Shogun's proposition to the companies it works with is to give them more choice and better speed after they have already made the decision to build their own "real estate" online using backends like Shopify's.

The opportunity is that, even if an e-commerce business is seen as a "tech" play, that is not often its core competency.

"Merchants large and small are getting sick of maintaining their own tech stacks," said Ethan Choi, a partner at Accel. While the platforms are getting ever more sophisticated by moving into areas like shipping and logistics alongside payments and inventory ordering and so on, they have yet to extend into web design.

"Shopify only has like 15 templates," he said. "There is no design control and you look like 1 of one million other sites." At the same time, if you have the funds and energy to build a custom site, he added, "that is expensive and it can take a whole day to change just a piece of text."

The speed is an issue that Shogun has identified and fixed in another way: Taylor says that with site speed being the most important aspect of converting a browser to a buyer, it's providing the fastest page loading times to customers.

As with so many startup stories, Taylor and Raushenbush stumbled on their gap in the market by accident.

Taylor had been working at Y Combinator — he is an engineer originally from Glasgow, Scotland, and his job was to help devise and build tools for YC to manage the huge inbound volume of applications it was receiving for its incubator. (Side note: One offshoot of that was the Startup School that the company created to better address working with startups on a more regional level: Taylor built that.)

As a side project, he and his friend Nick had come up with a page builder based on Ruby on Rails. It wasn't getting much traction, but a friend of Nick's, who worked for an e-commerce agency, said that if the two could tweak it for building e-commerce pages specifically, his agency would use it and even pay them.

"So we did," he said.

That eventually took off with more customers and more use, prompting them to eventually move to the other side of the organization, founding a startup based on the idea and becoming part of a YC cohort.

Looking ahead, one particular focus for Shogun, Taylor said, will be to build more tools to improve mobile commerce. Typically, mobile accounts for 80% of all e-commerce browsing but only some 20% of sales, he noted.

Shopify to Announce Third-Quarter 2020 Financial Results October 29, 2020 - Yahoo Finance

Posted: 08 Oct 2020 04:00 AM PDT


Wells Fargo: These 3 "Strong Buy" Stocks Have Over 70% Upside Potential

Markets are on a roller coaster lately, up one day and down the next, as Wall Street's pros and investors alike try to make sense of the constantly shifting news cycle. To wit: In the first week of October, we've seen a pretty good September jobs report, President Trump spend three days at Walter Reed Hospital with a case of COVID-19, and on his discharge the President withdrew from negotiations with House Democrats on a new COVID economic stimulus package. It's enough to make your head spin.It's also enough to send the S&P up 60 points one day and down 60 points the next day. Investors are nervous; no one wants to see another economic tailspin, no one wants to see the Administration handicapped by coronavirus, and whether there will be a stimulus package or not, of $1.6 trillion, or $2.2 trillion, or just $400 billion, Wall Street would simply like to have some idea of what's in the cards.Watching everything from Wells Fargo, senior global market strategist Sameer Samana summed it all up when he wrote, "While risks remain, such as election and COVID-19-related uncertainty, we believe investors should continue to remain fully invested and we favor U.S. large- and mid-cap companies, and the Information Technology, Consumer Discretionary, Communication Services, and Healthcare sectors."With Samana's outlook in mind, we took a closer look at three stocks backed by Wells Fargo. Running the tickers through TipRanks' database, we learned that the firm sees at least 70% upside potential in store for each, and all three have earned a "Strong Buy" consensus rating from the rest of the Street.Northern Oil and Gas (NOG)First up is Northern Oil and Gas, a small-cap oil and gas exploration company operating in the Williston Basin of North Dakota and Montana. The company's active plays include wells in the Bakken formation, the region that helped put fracking into the national consciousness. Northern's reserves include 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, and production, at 1.5 million barrels per day, has increased 30% over the past three years.Despite the solid production growth, low prices and low demand during the corona crisis have put damper on 1H20 revenues. Earnings, however, are turning around. EPS was just 5 cents in Q1, but jumped to 20 cents in Q2 and is forecast to hit 38 cents in Q3. Unsurprisingly, these gains come as several states are loosening COVID restrictions and overall consumer demand is increasing.Wells Fargo analyst Thomas Hughes sees the company's sound acquisition plan – and adherence to it – as the key."As NOG improved its balance sheet and cost structure, the E&P sector moved in the opposite direction, particularly within its primary basin of focus (Williston). After closing a ~$300mm acquisition in 2019, NOG has selectively sought what it describes as "Ground Game" opportunities, or smaller, bite-size parcels offering near-term CF accretion due to: (1) superior acreage productivity analysis and (2) a better understanding of upcoming development plans. Since 2Q19, these have totaled >$90mm, and NOG is now on the hunt for more." Hughes wrote. The analyst concluded: "While a smaller-cap operator, we believe NOG's limited beta to near-term oil price volatility provides strong FCF assurance, while a strong (and improving) balance sheet brings optionality to capitalize in a buyer-short market."To this end, Hughes gives NOG shares an Overweight rating (i.e. Buy) along with a $10 price target. This figure suggests a 90% upside potential from current levels. (To watch Hughes' track record, click here)Wall Street agrees with Hughes on the potential here; the analyst consensus rating of Strong Buy comes from a unanimous 5 positive reviews. Shares are priced at $5.30 and have an average price target of $14, giving an impressive upside potential of 166%. (See NOG stock analysis on TipRanks)Bonanza Creek Energy, Inc. (BCEI)Next up is Bonanza Creek, another small-cap oil and gas explorer in the North American energy sector. This one operating in the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. Bonanza Creek has active wells in the Wattenberg Field, using fracking and horizontal drilling to extract oil and gas from formations first put into play in the 1970s.During the second quarter, BCEI reported a 40% sequential decline in revenues, to $36 million, and an EPS net loss of $1.87. At the same time, the stock has managed to retain its value; shares are trading now at the same level they were before their 'corona collapse' in early March.The second quarter also saw capital expenditures come in at the low end of guidance, and debt fall to $58 million. The company expects to repay that outstanding balance by year's end. That rosy prediction is predicated on meeting annual production guidance – which has been raised to the range of 24 to 25 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. For the quarter, sales volume averaged almost 25K barrels of oil equivalent daily.At Wells Fargo, analyst Thomas Hughes is impressed by this company's balance sheet and production opportunities."With a net cash balance expected by YE20 and PDP net of debt underpinning a valuation above where the stock trades, we view BCEI as a rare SMID value opportunity which also benefits from low leverage risk… BCEI lacks the scale required to land itself amongst the ranks of Shale 3.0 operators, but in our opinion, this might not necessarily matter given the clear value disconnect… an unlevered balance sheet provides significant dry powder to transact in a market ripe with distress-driven opportunities. Until then, non-operated development should help stabilize volumes until higher oil prices (we estimate $45-50/bbl) warrant development of the company's Legacy acreage," Hughes commented.Hughes' written opinion supports his Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating – and his $33 price target suggests a robust 72% upside in the next 12 months.Overall, BCEI's Strong Buy analyst consensus rating is based on 4 reviews, breaking down to 3 Buys and 1 hold. The stock is selling for $19.16, and its average price target of $31 implies it has room for 61% upside growth ahead of it. (See BCEI stock analysis on TipRanks)Devon Energy (DVN)Devon Energy, the last stock on this Wells Fargo list, is another North American energy play. This mid-cap company operates in mainly in the New Mexico-Texas-Oklahoma area, with some additional operations in Wyoming. As of the end of 2019, Devon held over 1.8 million acres of mineral rights and 10,800 producing well. Net production last year was 323 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day, and reserves totaled 757 million barrel of oil equivalent. Approximately two-thirds of this total is liquids, with the rest as natural gas.Like the other companies above, Devon is struggling with low oil and gas prices, falling revenues, and low earnings. In Q2, revenues fell sequentially from $2.09 billion to just $394 million. EPS dropped into negative territory with an 18-cent per share net loss.But there was good news, too. Devon reported greater operational efficiency in the quarter, pushing total capex down to $203 million for the quarter, a savings of 10%. Oil production in the quarter beat the guidance by 3,000 barrels per day, reaching 153K barrels. But most importantly, the company finished Q2 with no debt maturities until 2025 and $4.7 billion in available liquid assets, including $1.7 billion in cash.Since the second quarter ended, Devon has made two important moves that bode well for future performance. First, Devon completed the sale of its assets in the Barnett Shale, netting $320 million in cash at the closing. And second, the company announced it will enter a 'merger of equals' agreement with competitor WPX energy. The merger is an all-stock deal and will create the largest unconventional oil and gas producer in the US.Analyst Thomas Hughes was impressed by Devon's merger, and what that transaction says about the company's overarching plan. Referring to the near-term."Management expects to generate ~$575 million of annual cash flow improvements by YE21 through initiative already underway at Devon (~$300mm) and synergies from the [WPX merger]," Hughes wrote. Looking ahead, Hughes sees Devon following a careful plan with a clear goal in mind."We believe the huge portfolio transformation Devon has undergone over the past 5+ years has been an impressive look at how a large-cap, diversified oil producer can pivot its focus. Acknowledging the challenging road Devon has traversed, "New Devon" looks to further focus operations on core parts of U.S. shale by divesting Canadian Oil Sands and Barnett assets (also Rockies CO2). We see the target of "New Devon" as achievable with the remaining U.S. Shale assets being above average, anchored by a strong position in the Delaware." the analyst noted.In line with these comments, Hughes rates DVN as Overweight (i.e. Buy). His $18 price target is indicative of an 106% one-year upside potential. All in all, the 17 recent reviews on DVN include 14 Buys and 3 Holds, supporting the Strong Buy analyst consensus. The stock's average price target of $15.56 implies a 60% upside from the current trading price of $9.75. (See DVN stock analysis at TipRanks)To find good ideas for stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks' Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks' equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.

EcomXFactor Opens a New Consulting Program for Ecommerce Store Owners despite COVID-19 Pandemic - GlobeNewswire

Posted: 25 Sep 2020 12:00 AM PDT

TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 25, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Recently, EcomXFactor has released its consulting acceleration program for e-commerce store owners, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
While many businesses are struggling to make ends meet and the global economy is unstable, there's a big shift towards selling online and working remotely. For Yaron and Tal Been, the founders of EcomXFactor, this shift is a great opportunity to optimize and reflect.The couples keep traveling the world while running their seven-figure businesses. They say: "We're actually seeing a positive trend in most aspects of our businesses. People are buying more which serves us well in our online stores. And on the other hand people are also seeking knowledge which is why we believe EcomXFactor's consulting services are thriving."Yaron and Tal are two Israeli born entrepreneurs. Tal is an Architect and Yaron is an Industrial Engineer who decided to quit their jobs in order to fulfill their vision of being location independent. In the last two years they have lived in Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, South Africa and nowadays, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, they are operating and growing their businesses from Eastern Europe."Our first sale was on the day we launched our first store. We were in the middle of a family dinner and I suddenly got a sales notification," says Yaron. "I was pretty surprised. We had just launched our store after hearing about dropshipping in Shopify two days before from a friend of ours and suddenly we were making money on our own."But this was just beginner's luck. Although the couple knew there's business potential in ecommerce, they struggled to grow their store for the first six months. They started to look for new products, tried new marketing angles and started split testing product pages. "Split testing product pages was the key for our growth," says Tal, now in charge of operating a team of customer support reps and the whole fulfillment operation.As soon as they were able to split test and optimize, results started flowing in more consistently and this allowed them to quit their jobs and become location independent. The couple moved to Chiang Mai in Thailand and kept on growing their store, adding new lines of products and optimizing their retention and overall customer satisfaction.Since then, their business kept on growing until the beginning of 2020 when the Pandemic started. "The pandemic caught us by surprise. People stopped buying, suppliers weren't able to meet demand and many orders were refunded," says Yaron. "Luckily, after a few weeks, in which we made a few major changes in our marketing and order fulfillment backend, things started to pick up."In March, at the peak of the markets crash, the couple had their best month, selling more than $25,000 worth of products on a daily basis. As word spread out, many friends and family members asked the couple to teach them about ecommerce and online marketing, which made Yaron & Tal decide to start a consulting program.Now EcomXFactor is opening a new consulting acceleration program for ecommerce store owners in which they share the essential elements of the S.P.L.I.T method. S.P.L.I.T is the method they have developed based on countless split tests that helps store owners optimize and scale their stores. Their advice to other entrepreneurs is to develop a methodical, data driven process which should be aligned with a grand vision and values."Without having clarity and a northern star, any challenge that arises can really steer you off the track. As soon as you have clear goals, you can strive to meet them, you can reverse engineer and create milestones which make the whole journey much easier," Yaron says.The couples are also very clear about their future goals. "We plan on continuing to integrate different aspects of our life and strive for harmony. We love our work, we enjoy the constant need to innovate and improve our business," they say. "At the end of the day it's all about constant learning, improving, being curious and surrounding yourself with experts and great consultants. Finding like-minded people with positive energy isn't so common but when you find Grade A players, make sure to collaborate with them. We're grateful to have EcomXFactor team with us".


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